Haibun: Just another Sunday

The first member of our family in generations to be injured on the barricades, son was just doing his job in a heroic waiter sort of way, piling up the tables and getting them inside before the mob arrived, when he was shot, copped a rubber bullet in the leg. An ansty CRS possibly thought he was piling up the tables to make a bonfire of them. Anyway, I’m proud of him, shot in the line of duty. His sister sent us a text later with a photo of the rioting below her window, and the tanks arriving. All the interesting stuff happens after we’ve left.

This is the winter

of our discontent

spring so far away.


Vikings, this way please

This is a new sign that has gone up next to the cycle track that runs along the banks of the Garonne. I’m assuming it’s the work of some bored municipal official with a sense of fun.

Road sign

Taking the directions in reverse order: yes, you can cycle to the station in less than five minutes from here; cutting across country there is a cycle track as far as Sauveterre-de-Guyenne in the Entre-Deux-Mers; you can get to Sète in Provence by cycling along the Garonne then following the Canal du Midi. But Norway????




Looking through a tourist brochure, I admire the pictures, the snaps of familiar places, monuments I walk past every day, and I think, yes, it’s an attractive town. But the pictures lie, because they are just pictures. They show what a place looks like, not what it is. They show the fountains and the happy children splashing, the riverside walk where the skateboarders, cyclists and strollers cohabit. It looks like that, it really does, and the sky is as blue as in the photos and the river runs, the trees bow and sway. The flowers bloom and the tourists point their telephones and cameras.

But where is the homeless man who always sits on the same bench, the drunk asleep among the hibiscus? Where is the strange lady dressed all in yellow with artificial flowers in her hair, feeding the pigeons? I see no dog dirt and litter, no dog walkers discussing politics, no policemen asking the Rastaman to move on, no municipal gardeners armed with rakes and spades telling them to leave him alone. Where is the Gypsy couple with their plastic bags of belongings and their cat, the group of Bulgarian men fishing for catfish, the quiet-spoken Algerian reading the Koran?

Life is not just smiling blond-haired children and their youthful parents. There is dirt and difficulty, broken glass and broken hearts. There are sleek gulls and swans gliding, but huddled in the spring sunshine, there are pigeons with deformed feet waiting to die. The pictures are real and true. But they lie.


Not blue sky, not grey,

brown river or crystal clear,

but nuanced, like life.

May 8 Victory in Europe Day

(Crédit photo : Eric FEFERBERG / AFP)


Well, Le Pen was well and truly trounced in Bordeaux with a whopping 86% for Emmanuel Macron. There were no spontaneous celebrations, unlike when François Hollande was elected, but civic duty had been done to block the unpalatable FN. Bordeaux is typical of one of the many French Paradoxes. It has a reputation for being snooty and bourgeois, it has some very snooty neighbourhoods and a lot of ‘old’ money whispering around. Yet it votes left in all the elections, and just to be contrary, votes without fail for a right-wing mayor.

Whatever you think of the liberal policies Macron will no doubt try to introduce, he actually does have an idea of economics and has more than the simplistic ‘It’s the fault of the immigrants’ reply to every question. But nothing is less certain that, just because the French voted for Macron as president, they will vote his way in the legislative elections next month. Some call it keeping a balance. Others call it utter chaos. This is France, so don’t imagine that the FN will roll over and die. And expect Jean-Luc Mélenchon to get back in the saddle and bring the young people out on the streets behind his far left party. The fun isn’t over yet.

Tanka for a misty morning


Air crackles with blue

behind black branch tracery,

smudged soft with pearl mist.

River heaves, white gull-speckled,

carrying my gaze seaward.


It was a glorious morning, misty but warm and springlike. The river was smooth as a millpond covered in drifts of fallen trees and tangles of  dead branches and creepers lifted by the high tide from the banks, offering the seagulls a free ride part of the way back to the sea.



The Belem is back after a refit at her home port of Nantes, ready to take to the high seas again.


New toy

Some of you may remember that a couple of years ago I bought my first ever mobile phone, a little Wiko Goa. It was tiny but it did the job, and it had a camera that I was thrilled to bits with. When it liked the lighting, it took gorgeous photos. Unfortunately, in June of last year it stopped receiving emails, and sending me the photos it took was taking days, literally. it got very possessive of its pics and in the end, refused to part with them at all. So I treated myself to a new phone, an ultra cheap Chinese phone but which claims to have a super camera.

I’ve had it for a fortnight now, and tried out the camera during the freezing cold miserable weather we’ve been having. I was a bit disappointed with the result; everything looked over-exposed. However, on fiddling about with it this morning, I discovered I’d had the flash turned on all the time, and it actually takes pretty good photos for a €60 phone.

These are the photos I took this morning.

Sky fish


Every time I stop, Finbar jumps over the parapet. Even though the tide is coming in, it’s not the moment to fall in.


Pont de Pierre east-facing.


Pont de Pierre shady side.  bridge2

Autumn afternoon

Photo ©fr::lb:User:Ernmuhl


Walking through the city, in my hand the keys to the house in the countryside.

Not the big barn door key, an antique almost the length of my forearm but the house door and the veranda door. We need spares cutting.

The air is hot, sky blue, and the key-cutter hums to himself.

Even the traffic lazes along, slow and steady.

I jaywalk across the boulevard, up to the triumphal arch and beyond to the cathedral square, where a mime artist, spray-painted gold, jerks into movement and a guy falls off his bicycle in surprise. The Spanish punks with their sleeping dogs laugh, but on the whole, nobody notices.

Past the town hall and the cobbles, fishscaled and uneven, along the railings of the municipal gardens and the art gallery to the park, resin-scented and dappled with hot sunlight, where two policemen are arguing with a young guy sitting on the back of a bench with his feet on the seat. But nothing is happening, the boy sits and the other policeman watches the girls in the café opposite. Then the older policeman huffs and puffs and they get back on their bicycles. The air is too hot and calm and peaceful to make a fuss.

The shopping mall is a hideous sixties pile, built when there was a lot of money for big projects, but maybe not much of it went the architect’s way because the result looks like a heap of old Daleks and giant leggo blocks stuck with beach pebbles to remind us, I suppose, that somewhere quite close is the ocean. But inside the concrete pebble-dashed bunker, there is quiet, no music and no crowds. I need a frying pan to take to the new house, and some Italian cheese, because shops in the countryside are sparse and Italian cheese will be a luxury. The boy at the checkout is getting everything wrong and the women at the next tills, older and maternal, laugh and help him out. The queue gets longer, but nobody seems in a hurry.

Walking home, the air is hot and lazy and the pines chatter with children going home from school and the shadows are a little longer.

I walk in the golden light falling, down the street that says Cours d’Albret on the nineteenth century enamel plaque, and Cours Messidor engraved in the stone beneath, reminding me that this city was once the seat of revolutionaries, and I wonder if they were as sleepy as we are now.

In the hot autumn light, gold and pine-scented, the city has a friendly, comfortable feel. But the keys jingle jangle in my bag and the song they are singing is of cool stone and trees where orioles warble, shading a stream, and morning light falling through open shutters onto a small piece of terracotta-flagged floor that my feet will tread gently back and forth until I make it my own.

Agapanthus and holiday traffic

Not being the kind of people who go on annual holidays, we had gone completely over our heads that this weekend is the deepest darkest traffic black spot of the year. It’s known as the ‘chassé-croisé’ when the July holidaymakers hit the road home and the August sunseekers stream south. Most French people holiday within France, mainly along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. Consequently the motorways going south have huge tailbacks. Not the ideal moment to try getting in and out of Bordeaux and taking the motorway that links both coasts.

So, we’re off tomorrow instead for a couple of days at the country retreat, and have an extra day of sanding and painting here. Finbar and I took our usual walk along the river and through the flowers. Having marvelled at the Agapanthus since they began to flower, it eventually occurred to me to take a few (not very successful) pics. They are massive—some are over my head height. I actually took the pictures four days ago but my phone has only just sent them to me…





Saturday and Sunday I had decided were going to be promotion days but I have no author interviews lined up, and for my own stuff, I just can’t be arsed. My back hurts, my head is fuzzy with painkillers and lack of sleep and there are a million things I should be doing but can’t.

Many of my blogger friends are away having a ball in London and what do we have here? A load of (I won’t be mean and use that adjective) men in garishly coloured football strips, spilling out onto the terrace of every bar and café, at varying degrees of inebriation, singing. At least this isn’t Marseille so there have been no pitched street battles with incendiary devices. Also, this first game in Bordeaux is Wales v Slovakia, and let’s face it, most Europeans don’t even know where either of those countries are.

Next up though is Ireland v Belgium. Back permitting, I might get down to the fan zone to watch this one. Finbar is certainly throwing himself into the spirit. Last night, when Dimitri Payet scored, he (Finbar—Payet was elsewhere at the time) raced round and round the garden barking his head off. I’m assuming it was in celebration.

WIP are all on hold as I can’t spend much time seated, and concentration is sporadic to say the least. The world will have to wait for the next masterwork. Patience, my friends. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.